An invitation to moms, dads and everyone else used to the comforts of home during their 50-week non vacation time each year. How about bringing everything you love about home with you while on vacation at a cottage or condo?
Yes, each year, thousands of visitors are thrilled to rent a home, cottage or condo on vacation and do a bit of housework. The trade-off? They get extra space for big gatherings, big (and sometimes gourmet) kitchens for family meals, laundry facilities for all those sandy-wet clothes and the ability to choose from a variety of architectural styles and amenity packages in every price range. Vacation rentals can also be practical choices for those planning family reunions, weddings or once-in-a-lifetime gatherings. These properties allow you to pick a central (or, depending on family relations, neutral) spot for a gathering. And few backdrops summon up the concept of newly wedded romance better than the seaside cottage.
Of all these reasons to rent, space for families to spread out often proves most important to visitors. Just ask Kendra Moore-Nixon, marketing manager of ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals. Like many other companies along the Northwest coast, ResortQuest is a property management company. It rents out stand-alone houses and condos on behalf of independent property owners. ResortQuest oversees more than 3,200 such offerings in Northwest Florida, from Perdido Key all the way to Panama City. Offerings range from studio suites to 10-bedroom luxury beach “cottages.”
“The main difference between vacation rentals and just going to a hotel is space,” says Moore-Nixon. “You have more than just a bedroom. You typically have a few bedrooms, plus a kitchen, plus a living area. You can spread out. There’s [typically] more than one TV, so the kids can watch what they want in one of the bedrooms, the parents can watch in the living room. You don’t have to eat every meal out. There’s a kitchen.”
Patricia Hardiman, marketing director for Southern Resorts Vacation Rentals, concurs. The company manages more than 400 properties throughout Northwest Florida, virtually all either beachfront or within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico. “People just want the space,” says Hardiman. “What if you want to have a party? That’s hard to do in a hotel room. With us, you have complete privacy.”
Southern Resorts’ rental stable runs from one-bedroom beach-access condos to eight-bedroom beachfront extravaganzas. As you might imagine, there’s quite a price spread. But more significant for some is the array of styles available. Whether you prefer the stand-alone, classically cozy beach cottage or the modern, minimalist high-rise beachfront condominium, these vacation rental companies are happy to match your taste and price. Their websites offer photos, virtual tours and those cozy-cute cottage names given by owners. A sampling from ResortQuest includes:
- One Seagrove Place: This 21-story condo complex rises like a series of sunset-hugging monoliths along the Gulf in the artsy town of Seagrove Beach.
- Tupelo Honey: This two-story Old Florida-style home near Seaside boasts porches upstairs and down.
- Moondance: Situated a short walk from the beach, this Santa Rosa property is the quintessential Florida beach cottage. It boasts a private pool, screened-in porch, outdoor shower and lots of greenery.
Southern Resorts offers a similar array of properties, including:
- South Beach Condos: These beige-and-white condos sit directly on Fort Walton Beach and offer their own wet bars.
- Splash: A resort on Panama City Beach with luxury condos available for rent. Splash offers beachfront pools, a water park, poolside bar and grill and kids’ play pools with waterslides.
- Hidden Dunes Beach Cottages: Located in Miramar Beach, these beach homes offer tennis courts, a community pool, spa and barbeque area.
Affordable and Private Cottages
Architectural diversity. Privacy. Space. By now you may be wondering about how these rentals affect your wallet.
The two-bedroom condos at Seagrove Place run from $263 per night in high season. The four-bedroom Tupelo Honey home is $683 per night, and the three-bedroom Moondance cottage is available from $397 per night.
But there are ways to get an even better bang for your buck.
Consider traveling during the winter and “shoulder” season (roughly spring and fall), when prices drop dramatically. (When the mercury drops, One Seagrove Place can be had for $134, Moondance for $200; and Tupelo Honey for $320.) And the price per night continues to drop for guests willing to stay a week or more.
Property amenities are sometimes a deal in themselves. Verify a property’s amenities with your property management company. Some condos are located on resort properties and allow you to take full advantage of all that the resort offers. Other properties may be situated in residential areas and can give you the privacy of your own neighborhood but the trade-off is less of a resort feel.
Finally, remember that in the vacation rental arena, you can find the type of advertised specials that permeate the travel industry as a whole. Specials in the past have included: "Stay with us and get a free $100 American Express gift card. One free movie rental for each night of your stay. Stay two nights, enjoy a free round of golf." All can add spark to your stay at your home-away-from-home.
More Rental Options
Across the Northwest, rental agencies large and small accommodate cottage seekers. A few are listed below, as well as on VISITFLORIDA.com.
Beach Rentals of South Walton. With offices in places like Grayton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, this agency rents cottages from one to seven bedrooms. 850-534-0600, 888-541-0801 or brswvacations.com.
Cottage Rental Agency of Seaside rents over 250 cottages in this picture-perfect town. Information is at 800-277-8696. www.cottagerentalagency.com.
Garrett Realty Services rents a wide variety of furnished houses and cottages in the South Walton area. www.garrettrealty.com or 800-537-5387
Paradise Beach Homes of Pensacola Beach agency rents on the Gulf and Santa Rosa Sound. 850-916-0777 or 888-860-0067or www.paradisebeachhomes.com.
Emerald Waters Realty has cottages along 30A in places like Seacrest and Panama City Beach. 800-226-3974 or www.emeraldwaters.net.
Looking for Deals?
It’s easy to find deals online with VISIT FLORIDA. Simply visit our hot deals page. Deals from across the state will pop up. You can then click on the “narrow it down” button to find accommodations in the Florida destination you want to visit.
This article was originally published in the 2008 Northwest Getaways Guide.